If you were stranded in the forest, what 3 things would you bring?

Students never cease to amaze me with all the ideas that they might have to share in an interactive manner while remote learning. One such topic was “If you were stranded in the forest, what 5 things would you bring?” Initially the suggestion revolved around a deserted island but got changed to the forest.

Students initally shared how they were feeling in an emoji using the chat. MS Teams was the software used for remote learning. One at a time, students used the microphone to share what they would bring to the forest. Some responses were expected but many had an element of ingenuity and creativity.  Students also had to explain why they would bring those three items. They included the following:-

Torch, gun (to shoot for food!), phone, matches, water, food, first aid kit, dog, pocket knige, car, tent, air grilles, seeds, bucket, lighter, tin can (to gather water), Australian flag, thongs, esky, camping supplies, 4 wheel motor bike, friends, surviavl packs.

One girl actually named two of her friends because one of them is smart and another was experienced at camping and would help with survival.

Dscussions continued on what students had gone camping, where they had gone camping. To make it a richer activity, it was decided that they might need to know the actual location, was there a river, how popular is the location, time, season and how long we are stranded for. All students shared and again, got to know each other better and remained connected.


Where are you from?

where are you from

Prior to each ICT class during remote learning, students would put forward suggestions of what topic they would like to share on. I would then add a poll using Polly and students would vote on their preferred option. Although “If I had 3 wishes” was the most voted upon, for some reason, we discussed “Where are you from and where would you go?”. This turned out to be a really interesting lesson, with students sharing their screens and showing us on google maps using a variety of views to show where they had previously lived.

In that year 8 ICT class, we have a student from the Philipines, who has also lived in New Zealand before his family made their way to Australia to work on a local dairy farm. Another student has just enrolled in our school. He has come from Thailand and had been living over there with grandparents, until the COVID19 lockdown when his parents decided to get him back to Australia.  He had only been a student at our school for one week. Both of these boys showed exactly where they were from, used the microphone and screen sharing with perfection to talk about and show what it looked like where the lived, including some of the nearby tourist attractions of Thailand. Erwin who shared the new home that his parents are building in the Philipines also showed us where he had lived in New Zealand.
erwin home

One of the girls has lived in Queensland and showed us her home and surrounds, whilst some of the local students showed us where they live now or where they may have lived previously.

As I love to travel, I found this a really interesting topic.

What I want to do when I leave school!

Whilst remote learning was in progress, I tried to use ICT class time to keep students (and even their families) connected and provide a little bit of fun amongst all the serious and intense study that may have been part of the other subject areas.

Prior to the start of each class, a message would be put in the chat to get ideas from students as to what we could share. A poll using Polly was then put in the MS Teams chat to get students to vote on one topic from the topics that were put forward. The students would come up with many interesting topics – far more than I by myself, could ever have come up with. It enabled student voice and gave them some  power over their learning. Plus, we got to know each other better. On June 1st, students chose the topic “What I want to do when I grow up!” As one student said in the chat:-

I want to do the one that what do you want to be when you grow up. It will be interesting to find out what everybody wants to be

There were many different careers shared. Students talked about the career and what they would have to do to be able to take up that career.

Amongst the students we had potential racing car driver, boxing, AFL players, teachers, Games developer for Apple in USA, astronomer, actor, writer, astrophysicist, artist, paramedic, child care worker, farm hands, astronaut, scientist, soccer player, gamer.

Some of the more interesting careers involved joining the family business (involving work with drones) and another girl wishing to become a Mangaka – someone who creates manga but the Japanese language would need to be learnt.

Case Study: Lessons in Learning During Covid-19 – Australia

selena podcast1

During the lockdown phase in Victoria, Australia and whilst remote learning had been in place for 7 weeks or so, I was proud to be part of Selena Woodward’s podcast discussing some of these lessons. The other panelists were Andrew Batesse, James Jenkins and Michelle Dennis. It was interesting work with them all and compare what we had experienced and achieved and it was fun to do!!! As we are all MIE Expert Educators, we all used MS Teams and/or OneNote to deliver the bulk of our remore learning.

Some of the questions we had to reflect upon prior to the connection were as follows:-

  1. Tell us a bit about your site before Covid-19 hit.
    1. Where are you based? What’s your school like – age ranges. What you teach etc.
    2. How much tech use was there?
    3. Did you already use remote learning tools like MS Teams?

                                                         i.      If so .. how?

  1. Did you get involved in any training at your site? What kind of learning did you see happening for your staff?
  2. How did the students respond?
    1. Have their learning outcomes been good?
    2. How did the engage?
    3. What are the best tools you’ve been using and why?
  3. How about the parents? How has the tech helped them to get involved in their children’s learning?
  4. What kinds of teaching strategies have you been able to keep alive / or have worked best in your online setting?
  5. What’s your favourite tool / app / methodology / thing that has come out of this?
  6. What impact do you think the last few weeks will have on the way in which you teach from now on? What lessons have you learnt that you can take forward into your everyday, “normal” practice?

This link will take you to the podcast Lessons in Learning during COVID19 However, I think you may need to subscribe to be able to listen to the podcast.

What school looks like after COVID19 isolation

IMG_7190Victorian students returned to school in two stages – years foundation to 2 and years 11-12 on Tuesday, May 26th. Monday Staff returned to school on Monday May 25th which it was a student free day, enabling staff to prepare for a blend of remote and face to face learning. All other students returned to school on Tuesday June 9th. (Monday, June 8th is a public holiday for the Queen’s birthday). The four day weeks certainly helped to ease us back into something of a routine. Please be aware that our school has 180 students, so our protocols may differ a little to larger schools.

The school leadership has reminded us that:

It’s really important that we focus on the positives today as students return to school, and as we move forward into the emerging normality that will form the experience of being at school. Don’t focus on what has not been achieved over the past seven eight weeks with students; rather, focus on what has, and what will be happening in face to face classes over the rest of the term. There is little to be gained at this point in asking students to ‘catch-up’ if they have not engaged as we would have wished during the period of remote learning   

Our new ‘normal’ school routine is now as follows:-

School buses arrive:-

The buses arrive as usual but the front three rows of seats are cordoned off to protect the driver. (Majority of our students arrive on bus). The bus duty teacher ensures that all students use hand sanitiser as they get off the bus. There are 2 sanitisers on tables in the bus shelter. Parents may drop students off but are not able to enter the school grounds without permission. They are not to loiter and socialise with other parents. Students walk through the bus shelter to their classrooms and sanitise hands.

Morning staff briefings:

Before lockdown, these were held at 8:40am each morning in the staff room. All staff would attend  and were briefed on the school daily and weekly happenings inclucing any student welfare items. The briefings continue but are now emailed to us. Staff are able to add input prior to the email.

Whole school assemblies:-

Were held in the library every Monday morning at 8:55am. Years 3 to 12 would attend. School assemblies continue to be held but are online using MS Teams. Form and class teachers login to Teams from their classrooms and our principal and vice principal run the assembly with the help of the School Captains. Every student has been made a member of the School assembly team so students who are at home can also attend.

whole school assembly2


Classes run as normal. However, we still have some remote students and need to cater for these. Most classes remain in the same room with teachers coming to them. Prior to ISO, students would move around classrooms to the English room, maths room, Chinese room etc. Sizes remain the same. The average size of our classes is 18 -20. Students sanitise hands on entry and exit. Physical distancing of 1.5 metres is applied where possible but due to the classroom size it is near impossible. However, staff have to social distance from each other. Sports classes cannot participate in any contact sport.

Play times

Play times are as normal. However, younger students are allowed out for lunch 10 mins early to allow them to go to the canteen and ease the queues when the older students are on a lunch break. Students can play on all play equipment. The equipment is all wiped down once a day. However, contact sports are not allowed. 

Canteen and drinking water

All students are asked to bring their own water bottles. However, some drink all their water by lunchtime. The canteen seems to be able to fill the bottles up for them. No bubble taps are to be used. Drinking fountains are empty and cordoned off. Students need to order their lunches by 11:30am but otherwise the canteen is open for food purchases at recess and lunchtime. Crosses on the floor mark the social distance required when queuing.



Three cleaning staff are now employed between 10am and 2pm. They surface wipe everything. Most class rooms are wiped down during recess and lunchtime, and when they are not being used. The staffroom, playground and all signs are wiped down while students are in class. Hand sanitisers are available in all rooms. Disinfectant wipes are available to wipe down keyboards, computers and mouse(s).

Weekly Staff Meetings

Take place as per normal times and days but are online using MS Teams.




All students return to school today

staff with signage

Staff with welcome signs

Today, after a break of 11 weeks (which included the two week autumn break), all students returned to school. The sun was shining, just as it was when they left school before the lockdown. The radio reported the temperature as 0 degrees celsius (there was a frost) but said it felt like -4 degrees due to the wind factor. It was 4 degrees as the students arrived. 99% of our students catch a bus to school.

Some looked anxious, perplexed but most looked really happy and excited to be back. For the last two weeks, years foundation to 3 and 10-12 had returned to ease staff and students in, and see what the statistics would do. The first cohort were greeted with helium balloons in school colours and cheery welcoming staff as students got off the bus. During this time there was a blend of face to face and remote learning.

the first bus

Staff had decided that they wanted to do something special to warmly and cheerily welcome all students back. Mortlake College had performed a bright dance routine for students when their first cohort returned. It was decided we would do something similar but wear Hawaiin shirts, sandals, bright socks etc.  A dance routine was worked out using a medley of songs – nutbush, YMCA, Macarena and the Time Warp.

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And to remind us of the presence of COVID19, our principal reminded them to use sanitisers before they entered the school building. Bottles are placed on tables in the bus shelter and also at the entrance to each classroom. However, no-one is required to wear face masks.

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Some schools have staggered times for starting but our school is small and as most come in on a bus, it is impossible to do that. Parents drop students off at the gate and are not allowed into the school grounds without permission from our principal. They need to use social distancing of 1.5 metres if they socialize at the gate. All students have to bring their own water bottle. The bubble taps are taped off and cannot be used. Signs everywhere remind us of social distancing, especially for staff who must be 1.5 metres apart. The social staff room’s size only allows 14 in there at a time. The overflow of staff go to the library where an urn and microwave are available. Students are not distanced socially  unless classroom size allows it. My classroom – the computer pod is small so it is impossible to distance in there. Sanitisers and wipes are available and cleaning staff come through at least once and often twice a day to surface wipe everything down. Students are asked to sanitise their hands upon entry to and exit from the classroom. The canteen has crosses marking the floors to show the 1.5m distance. The younger children have lunch 10 mins earlier to avoid crowding in the canteen.

How we all look: Many of us have not had haircuts, some students are out of uniform as they have outgrown their previous winter uniform and some are wearing summer uniform as it was still summer weather when they left. Year 7 students stated how they enjoyed living in casual clothes and slippers whilst in isolation. They wore slippers in the classroom today.


How it sounded: It was lovely to hear the noise of children playing in the school grounds as I did my yard duty. That has not been heard for 11 weeks. Even over the past 2 weeks, there were not enough children at school to produce those sounds. Throughout the day, there was intense chatter amongst those who had not been to school since the isolation.

The day’s routine: Form assembly started the day as per our usual routine. Students were given time to chat during period one as this is the first time many have seen each other. A full school assembly was held at the beginning of period 2. This was done in MS Teams as it is no longer possible to have everyone assemble in one place due to the social distancing rules

whole school assembly2

Many classes tried to have ‘fun’ type activities to ease students back into the classroom. I found that over the last 2 weeks, my students were rather unsettled and it took a good week to get them back to a school routine. For my year 9/10 ICT class (100 mins), students share the link to their favourite song on youtube. I played the songs and students had to guess who chose that song by writing it on a worksheet that was provided. All students finished their survey form on Two Truths and a Lie, and we went through to see which they thought was the lie. We looked at how classes in Germany are organised as they have started to return to school and we discussed the differences. See this post. To finish the lesson they commenced a Sway on COVID19. They added videos, urls, resources, MEMEs on the virus and remote learning, parody songs etc. They enjoyed searching for the MEMEs and parodies.

Comparing the return of students to school between two countries

As Victoria started to ease students back into school over a 2 week period, I read what one of my good colleagues in Germany was experiencing as they started to get students back into schools. In many respects, his experiences were quite different and much tighter, compared to ours in Victoria, Australia.

I am adding his comments in italics below, as he shared them with us in our HLW Skypers group. What we are doing in our school, Hawkesdale P12 College,  is written underneath in normal text.

Classes are split up in learning groups. Not more than 14 kids in each room, door and windows are open all the time. We only use 4 classrooms, every day. And they get desinfected every afternoon completely. And they get desinfected every afternoon completely. Each group has it individual break not to meet any other kids on the playground.

Our experience: All students are now back and stay in their normal class sizes which range from a size of 8 (senior students) to 25 students. Our windows and doors can be closed as it is winter and heaters are on. All our classrooms are used but students do not move as little as possible between classrooms. The staff move to them. Our rooms, playgrounds etc are surface wiped at least once a day between 10am and 2pm. Playtimes are as usual. All students are out in the school yard at the same time. Schools were advised to stagger hours for drop off and pick up of students. Play times should also be staggered where possible but we do not do that (due to our small school size of 180 students).

They are taught only in the 3 main subjects: German math and English.  All other subjects are taught from the distance. Students come to school in the morning, distance 2 meters. They enter the school building one after the other with mask. They have to stop in the entrance hall for hand desinfection. Kids are let to the classroom by teachers, every single kid. Reaching the classroom they have to stop and wash their hands, one after the other. Then they sit down at the table where they can read his/her name. After they have sit down they can put of the mask. They are not allowed to stand up.

All students are now at school for all subjects. Staff have to maintain a distance of 1.5 metres but students do not have to distance. Masks are not worn. Students disinfect their hands when getting on the school bus, off the school bus and upon entry and exit to classrooms etc. Our students move around as they always have.

They are not allowed to rent a paper, pen, pencil or anything else from somebody else in the room. They are not allowed to go to the board to write something at the board. Teachers are not allowed to go to the children to offer material or to help them at their table. Toilets are desinfected every 30 mins.

Teachers move around as they always have but are conscious of keeping physical distance from students where possible. Materials can be borrowed but wipes are available to clean materials. Our toilets are cleaned daily.

Teachers have to teach in the morning at school as far as the kids are on the teachers time table. You only have one door to go into the school and another door to leave. After that they have to teach other kids from home. Classes which are not at school that day or subjects that are not taught at school at school. I am at home right now. My working time starts at 8am and ends sometimes at 10pm.

Our students can use the multiple entry and exit doors. All students work through their normal timetable at school and the hours for teachers are as they were pre-isolation.

Learning how to produce arcade games remotely

girls who helped

With the flagship Microsoft Store in Sydney currently closed due to the COVID19 crisis, the opportunity arose for schools and students to work with some of the team from Sydney. (Sydney is 1,135.3 km away from our school).  This was a fantastic opportunity as my coding skills are not strong.  My year 7, 8 and 9/10 ICT students learnt to produce arcade games using https://arcade.makecode.com/ whilst they were learning from home, and whilst the MS employees were also working from home.


We use MS Teams in our school but our DET tenant does not allow us to invite outsiders in. However, the Sydney team sent a meeting link in MS Teams for me to share with the students. Students were able to log in quickly and were already familiar with MS Teams. The instructors were young, savvy and spoke the students’ language. They often used vibrant and colourful backdrops. Although none of them were teachers, they delivered excellent, interactive sessions that were paced to the students’ ability.

drawing the character

The lessons looked liked this:-

  • Students logged on to the shared link
  • Two microsoft employees helped us – one was the instructor, the other kept their eye on the chat and interacted with my students.
  • The elements of coding were introduced – sprites, variables, co-ordinates etc and the actual makercode site explored.
  • Students started with the Chase a Pizza tutorial. The year 9/10 students also took a look at Galga
  • Step by step they were taken through the block codes required, with the reasons for that coding always given
  • It took approximately 30-40 mins to finish producing the game
  • Students were able to use their microphone and chat to ask questions, share their experiences etc. This was a fabulous opportunity to be able to interact with adults and demonstrate their netiquette and digital citizenship.
  • Students learned how to publish their games, save the url for their game, share it with everyone and if time, permitted, they played each other’s games.
  • They also were shown the variety of hardware that they could play their downloaded games on.

Some of the immediate feedback from the year 7 students were as follows (few of them had ever done coding):-

  • This is amazing 
  • This lesson was alright, I enjoyed making the pizza chasing the pizza slice

A big thank you to our fabulous instructors and to Microsoft for giving us this opportunity.

making arcade games collage


Never have I ever …… Playing games to enhance social connectedness in remote learning.

Before each remote learning class, I ask year 7 or 8 ICT students, what they would like to share on. This is done using the MS Teams chat. Students always come up with some great suggestions. However, today it was suggested that we play “Never, have I ever ………” Not knowing how to play it, I relied on two of the students explaining how to do so when the class started.

The idea was to make a statement that starts with “Never have I ever…..” and then complete it. All students start with 10 fingers up. Then as they fail to correctly answer the question, they drop a finger. The last one to have fingers up wins.

Students took it in turns (in alphabetical order) to share a statement. Some of the statements were as follows: –

Never have I ever….

  • made a tiktok
  • fallen out of a tree
  • lied about being adopted
  • called a teacher mum or dad
  • had detention for something I didnt do
  • eaten a bug
  • eaten a weird combination of foods (eg icecream on bread)

When students put down their last finger, they alerted us in the chat and they were eliminated from the game. At regular periods I would ask the students to share how many fingers they still had remaining. The game seemed to work well as every student was involved, had to share a statement and used their fingers to score. Some of their comments were really well thought out and creative. Only when it got to the last four remaining students, did it become a bit slow and we finished  the game before there was a clear winner. It had been in progress for 40 minutes.

We then just used the interactive chat to share our favourite colours, then animals spelt backwards and finally students put a picture of their favourite food into the chat.


Day 2 of students’ transitioning to return

Today was the second day that the first lot of students were allowed to return to school. Yesterday, was rather challenging as the usual school routine had been largely forgotten.

  • marking the rolls and collecting mobile phones (I forgot to take the phones container to collect them.)
  • we had a whole school online assembly of which we missed most due to tardiness in connecting my laptop to a whiteboard for students to participate in.
  • forgot to take some textbooks to class
  • nearly forgot my lunchtime yard duty (it was a beautiful day and so nice to be outside)
  • could not remember whether I had to wear a sun hat or not. we are a Sun Smart school
  • tried to get used to the three cleaning staff wear fluro vests, who were quickly and fastidiously surface wiping in our breaks and who seemed to be everywhere. They even clean the playgrounds and the outdoor school signs.
  • counting the number of staff in the social staff room to make sure that I dont make the 15th person. I had to go to the library for my cup of coffee at recess time. Only 14 staff can be in our social staff room at any one time.

Year 7-9 classes were still learning from home. To try and engage the year 9 and 10 ICT elective, I got them to match the teacher with their favourite song. Staff were asked to share their favourite song. Students were given the teacher names on a Word document shared in MS Teams.

I played the youtube clip by sharing my screen and audio so that the remote students could also see and hear. To ensure the remote students could see and hear, I asked the questions several times for them to tell me. However the chat responses were slow and I didnt realise till nearly the end of the lesson that they could not hear. It was a long, busy, tiring day.

Today, went a lot more smoothly. Although I taught all sessions in the morning, I did not have to worry about form assembly and marking their roll. Some of my senior students were absent for medical reasons and one student will learn remotely three days a week and come to school two days per week (due to medical reasons). I just need to remember to bring him in on MS Teams so that he knows what he is doing.

The day finished with another online staff meeting. Our power is off tomorrow to add even more challenges to the mix but Powercorp agreed to provide the school with a generator to keep our lights, heater, electrical items and computer wifi going. It is huge and it took some time to work out where best to put it.